Dropped the mutts off at the kennels last Thursday afternoon then dashed back home to prepare for Friday's bike trip to Blighty to renew the bike's MoT. Preparations went well. Maybe too well. Had a nagging doubt that I'd forgotten something but couldn't think what. Went to bed running through my mental checklist of a million items that included oddities like earplugs, tyre inflator adaptor and tissues to clean visor, as well as more obvious items like passport and ferry ticket print-out.
Woke up at about seven. Had three hours before hit the road time. Did the washing up, pulled the duvet off my pit, unplugged telly and computer, cleared the fridge of perishables, emptied the rubbish and took the sack down the to the hamlet bins, laid out my riding gear, loaded the panniers, then sat down with a cuppa and a fag with about an hour to spare. All was going well. Maybe too well. I still had that nagging doubt that I'd forgotten something. Turned out I hadn't but there's always that chance.
Donned riding gear, departed maison and locked the front door. What to do with the key - take it or leave it in the hiding place that neighbour Hadrien knows, just in case someone needs to get into the house for whatever reason? Always a tricky decision to make. Decided to leave it in the hiding place.
Hit the road at ten. Quite misty when I woke up but now the skies were clear. Perfect biking weather, especially heading north with the sun behind. Boring motorways for 95% of the journey. Stopped off about every hundred miles or so for petrol, coffees, loos, sarnies, fags and a bit of leg stretching. French motorway stations provide a welcome break from the monotony of trundling along at 75 to 80mph on roads that all look the same after a while. Turned left before Vierzon by mistake and hit a minor road instead of the motorway to Tours. Very pretty though following the canal and river Cher for about ten miles, then hung a right and picked up the motorway again. Tours came and went, as did Le Mans. Now it was a straight run up to Caen and I was way ahead of schedule. Rather than spend four hours or so killing time in the Ouistehem ferry port, I decided to kill time by hanging around in service areas, just watching people, cars, bikes and lorries.
Hit the ferry port at eight after exactly 400 miles. Had a beer in the lowering sun, a bit of grub in the newspaper caff, then joined the ferry queue. Ship left port at about eleven. Phoned Georgie twice 'cos I knew she'd be worrying. Both times engaged.
Arrived Portsmouth at around 6.30. Another sunny day. Lucky with the weather. Stopped off at Petersfield McDonald's for a bacon butty and cuppa at around 7.15, then stopped off again for another cuppa at Liphook service station.
Then onwards through the Hindhead tunnel (for the first time!) at around 8.30, bang on time for Guildford at 9 where the MoT was booked. Halfway through the MoT test, Scott came running out with his mobile phone - Georgie, worried sick, wanted to know if I'd appeared there yet. Oops, should have rung her a third time last night.
Bike passed the test with no advisories, so I continued on my merry way to Putney. Did a bit of shopping with Georgie in Putney. Then had a couple of late afternoon beers by the river at the ever-popular Duke's Head pub where we were joined by Don. Very pleasant, especially in the sunshine.
On Sunday Georgie had a previously arranged get-together with her old work chums in West Hampstead. She tried to get me to go but, as I didn't know any of the people and I just fancied an easy day, I said I'd stay put, watch the Monaco Grand Prix and collect the shelves from Cargo with Don (Georgie had bought them on yesterday's shopping trip). Collected them and somehow squeezed the flat-packs into Don's tiny Peugeot 107 and spent a few hours assembling and clearing the required space in Georgie's boudoir (easier said than done). Both Don and I gained a few brownie points when Georgie returned from her 'party', somewhat hottish (it had been a very hot day) and a tiddly bit wibbly (the vino goes straight to her little head).
On Monday Georgie had the day off so the world was our lobster. Typically, we didn't know what to do or where to go. Rhododendrons were top of Georgie's list with Rampster(?) Gardens a strong possibility, despite having been there a number of times before. In the end we sort of headed towards Frensham Ponds - an area where we used to live. Stopped off at the Hog's Back caff, thinking we could have a cuppa whilst enjoying the splendid views, but the views were obscured by trees - typical! Then stopped off at Farnham Honda to look at bikes - silly not to. Then, as we were in our old stamping ground, I thought we'd drive past our old house on the way to Frensham and the ponds. That's drive past, not stop - I wasn't as curious as Georgie to know how the old place was looking. Anyways, we stopped. And we snooped. Just a bit. Looked like the original windows had been replaced with those plastic jobbies. And a modern front door had replaced the original. All seemed a bit too twee (maybe I've been in France too long!). But each to his, or her, own. C'est la vie. Whilst there, we bumped into one of our old neighbours, had a quick chat and caught up with the news.
Then onwards to Frensham Little Pond and the sculpture show. No sign of a sculpture show so we headed off for the caff at Frensham Great (or Big) Pond. Had a most enjoyable tea and a lemon ice-cream, followed by a quick look at the little beach.
Caff lady said that they'd had about four thousand visitors yesterday (Sunday). Eee, when I were a lad, there wasn't a caff here, there were hardly any visitors, the car park was tiny and you could access any part of the pond for a swim, unlike now - most of it's fenced off. Ah well, that's progress I guess. Very pleasant day out though.
On Tuesday, Georgie and Don had to go to work so I just pottered about the flat, taking things easy and sort of preparing for an 8pm departure for the Portsmouth ferry at 11pm. Girls arrived home at about 7pm. Had a quick nosh-up then hit the homeward trail. Boat crossing went smoothly, like crossing a pond. Not that I'd know 'cos I slept most of the way. Not in one of those seats that you have to book with your ticket, but on the carpeted floor. Comfier that way. Strange though, when I nodded off I'm sure there were quite a few people kipping near me, but when I awoke there were hardly any. They all seemed to be over the other end of the dorm. Maybe I'd been snoring. Or inadvertently trouser coughing. Or maybe both. Anyways, I awoke early and killed a bit of time before the self-serve restaurant opened by having a fag and watching the sunrise on deck. Very impressive.
Then breakfast just before we docked in port, followed by disembarkation and the open road.
Arrived home at 4.30. Knackered. Must have been a storm when I was away 'cos the electricity had clicked off and various items in the fridge and freezer had de-frosted. Also, there was water on the floor of the downstairs loo area. Damn, no ice for my much-needed scotch and dry! Emergency! Visited Isabelle and Christian. They said there'd been a storm on Saturday night. So, no electricity for four or five days. No wonder the fridge stuff had melted. Returned home after a couple of scotches (with ice!) and a bit of dinner, then kipped. Picked up the dogs on Thursday (yesterday). Cut the lawn (gosh, amazing how much it grows in a week at this time of year) and shall strim out the back just as soon as I finish writing this rubbish. Or maybe not 'cos it's a bit hot out there. Maybe this evening when it cools down.
Hah! Back in the old routine.
A Winters's Harvest
1 week ago